The Death Of The Pull-Up In Singapore

When I was 13, I couldn’t do a pull-up and I was in despair.

I had joined the National Cadet Corps as my extra-curricular activity and being able to do pull-ups like a real adult in the army was a big deal. You were often admired if you were a “pull-up king”.

My good friends Derek, Eu Jin and Jerry appeared to have no problems doing pull-ups and I kept struggling to get my chin over the bar just once. I remember I even had a dream where I managed to do ten repetitions and I was so happy, then I woke up.

Over time, with many push-ups and help from my friends who had to keep pushing me above the bar, I earned the ability to do my first pull-up and I was over the moon… err, iron bar.

Doing pull-ups became a regular affair as I later joined the ACJC dragonboat team and through the army days. Even today, nearly 20 years after I was enlisted, I still do pull-ups as part of my regular exercise regime.

This week, the Singapore Armed Forces announced that it was revamping the Individual Physical Proficiency Test (IPPT) to have just three stations – 2.4km run, sit-ups and push-ups – instead of the current five. The SAF eradicated the standing broad jump, shuttle run and pull-up stations.

The Defence Minister said the change was to make the test “easier to pass” and “to train for”. The Chief of Army disagreed with the bit on “easier to pass”, focusing on saying that the test was “easier to train for”

Although Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen had said the new three-station IPPT test format — a 2.4km run, sit-ups and push-ups — will mean more servicemen will pass, Major-General Lim stressed that the intention behind the changes was not to make the test easier to pass, but easier to train for. ~ “Change was to make IPPT easier to train for”

What we can all agree on is that the Gahmen continues to flunk at basic public relations when it cannot be consistent with the right message. “Easier to pass” vs “Easier to train for” are two very different things.

A lot of people have opinions on the IPPT changes. My personal take is that it’s a real cop-out and a poor case of problem solving by the SAF to solve the high failure rate in the IPPT test.

It has also effectively killed off the pull-up, an exercise which has caused much pain, and perhaps joy, with us SG guys.

Continue reading The Death Of The Pull-Up In Singapore

Higher aspirations, higher cost of living?

The 11 May 2014 article from Today newspaper
The 11 May 2014 article from Today newspaper

In recent years, I’ve been hearing this line “Control what you can control” more and more often. I think it’s a very useful line for time management and job prioritization but it is increasingly used when people are handed a lousy situation not of their own doing, and asked to “just deal with it”.

That thought came to mind when I read this news story in Today where our Defence Minister insists our cost of living here has become more expensive because of our personal aspirations in life:

SINGAPORE — Having higher aspirations in life is a reason why Singaporeans find the cost of living here expensive, despite real wages having gone up, said Defence Minister Dr Ng Eng Hen yesterday (May 10).

But Singapore has to ensure that opportunities to get out of poverty must not be priced out and remain abundant to fulfil the dreams of younger Singaporeans, said Dr Ng.

The Defence Minister was speaking at a Singapore Medical Association dinner and responding to a question from the audience concerned over the rising cost of living in Singapore.“If you look at household goods, per household, what people have – handphone, TV – has actually gone up,” said Dr Ng. Unlike the past, mobile phones are almost an essential item for children, he added.

That Singaporeans find costs of living expensive due to higher aspirations is a reason that will not please people, including himself, said Dr Ng, as the reason is “objective” and does not address “issues of the heart.”

Dr Ng added that while the Government makes sure that nobody should have their potential stunted just because their family cannot afford it, this is “difficult argument” to sell as some parents pay large sums of money to provide tuition for their children.

Before writing this post, I’ve actually spent the past three days mulling frequently on the story and on my personal situation.

I’ve asked myself – so is this true? Have my aspirations led to the increasing costs that we’re all experiencing around us? I’ve always respected Minister Ng (hey, he’s an old ACS boy, so he can’t be that clueless right?) so I kept asking myself if it was me and not him. Continue reading Higher aspirations, higher cost of living?

Please stop wasting our public money


For a couple of years now, I’ve been increasingly annoyed by the poor use of taxpayer dollars by the Singapore government for frivolous or impractical things, while cost of living continues to shoot up and everyone is unhappier than ever with the state of things.

Today I read a news story which really took the (50th birthday) cake. Continue reading Please stop wasting our public money

The COE system is now hurting motorcyclists too

This letter was published in Today, 22 Mar 2014. Note that the COE increase for motorcycles was 240%, but was mistakenly edited to 140% in the printed letter.
This letter was published in Today, 22 Mar 2014. Note that the COE increase for motorcycles was 240%, but was somehow edited to 140% in the printed letter.

Most people may not know that between 2003 and 2013, the car population jumped from 405,328 vehicles to 621,345 vehicles, a staggering 53% increase, according to official Land Transport Authority data.

In the same period, the motorcycle population only increased from 134,767 vehicles to 144,307 vehicles, a 7% increase.

Private cars now form 64% of the total vehicle population, while motorcycles make up 15%.

A 125cc scooter like this Yamaha Zuma may soon be an endangered species on our expensive Singapore roads.
An affordable and efficient 125cc scooter like this Yamaha Zuma may soon be an endangered species on our expensive Singapore roads.

Despite the minimal impact of motorcycles on road congestion and pollution, in the past four months, the Certificate of Entitlement premium for two-wheelers has increased 240% to $4,289 as the LTA has applied its one-size-fits-all formula to capping vehicle population growth in Singapore.

While the LTA is doing the right thing in correcting the over-supply of COE in the past decade, it may not realize how its myopic approach in severely restricting the release of motorcycle COEs  is hurting the motorcycling population and intensifying a growing social equity problem. Continue reading The COE system is now hurting motorcyclists too

The Tuition Problem nobody wants to solve

Dear Voices Editor

I refer to the Today report “MPs call for closer look at private tuition industry” (Today 17 Sep 2013)

It was a disheartening story for parents of primary school children to read.

While the original question posed by MPs in Parliament was focused on whether teachers are leaving the Education Service for more lucrative careers in the tuition sector, the replies from Senior Minister of State Indranee Rajah was a disturbing indication that the Ministry of Education doesn’t consider the tuition industry to be a critical issue.

Like it or not, it’s time for policymakers to stop ignoring the Tuition Problem if we are to improve the education system in Singapore. Continue reading The Tuition Problem nobody wants to solve

SAF, fix your IPPT system for those above 35

I’m sending this in as a letter to the press. As far as I can tell, I have not leaked any military secrets.

The Singapore Armed Forces often touts itself as a technologically advanced army, and it is in many ways. However, there is a pressing need to improve some basic IT services that affect many operationally ready servicemen before it can boast of being a “3G army”.

NSmen who are above 35 have to take a health screening test every year at an army medical center before they can be allowed to take the annual Individual Physical Proficiency Test (IPPT). For the past two work years since I started taking the screening test, I have encountered a baffling issue that highlights the poor integration of data within the SAF.

Since 2011, I have attended my scheduled health screenings in September. However, the official personnel records are not updated with the screening test results even after five months. I have to call the NS hotline repeatedly in order to find out if my records have been updated.

To make matters worse, the SAF recently shortened the IPPT window to nine months each year instead of twelve months.

With over half of the window period made invalid by the lack of an updated health record, the NSman is then put under further pressure to clear his IPPT test in a compressed time frame.

This issue is not isolated, as I have checked with fellow NSmen and they have encountered the same scenario. With no systematic notification of the health screening test result, some NSmen actually miss their IPPT window and then have to go through the hassle of explaining to their respective unit why they should not be penalized.

It is clear that till today, there is no proper integration between the IPPT registration system and the health screening database. We will receive regular SMS alerts from MINDEF telling us to clear our IPPT even when the health screening results aren’t updated.

And after so many years, the NS portal website remains a messy “rojak” of critical services and marketing fluff which makes it difficult to navigate.

With the massive amount of the national budget that is poured into defence spending, the SAF needs to relook some fundamentals of how IT is implemented to drive better efficiency.

We NSmen sacrifice our work and family time to do our national duty and such broken IT services only lead to unnecessary frustration and inconvenience.

Ian Tan Yong Hoe

Think out of the money box

Since my last blog post, and later newspaper letter, on restructuring the COE system based on needs was published, I’ve observed several replies that follow the same lines of thought.

  • A certificate of entitlement (COE) must be tied to capitalistic market forces, because there is no other fair way of distribution.
  • The COE must cost a particular sum of money (eg. the rich should pay more for their high-end cars)
  • A COE system based on needs can’t possibly work, due to the subjective nature of “needs” and the existence of a black market.
  • Any distribution of COE based on needs must be communist or socialist, so it can’t be good.

It’s amusing and I must admit, somewhat tiring, to see how Singaporeans think when they see a new proposal that isn’t based on money principles. This permeates not just through the citizenry, but also the government.

Continue reading Think out of the money box

The COE system has broken down

Note: There are many comments coming in, but here’s my rule – if you can’t leave your real name and email address, I will delete the comment. I’m tired of people hiding behind pseudonyms and not having the courage to speak up as their real selves. Using your FB account (that shows your real name) to comment will work too.

Since the 2011 General Elections, the Government has been actively dealing with the various societal and infrastructural issues facing Singaporeans. Be it the fertility rate, housing prices or public transport, there have been much discussion and policy changes.

But the Government remains strangely stubborn on the issue of the Certificate of Entitlement (COE) for vehicles. Despite multiple calls from the public to revamp the nearly 23-year-old system, the consistent response from the Ministry of Transport is that there will be no changes apart from tweaking vehicle quotas.

Continue reading The COE system has broken down